Our sweet puppy, Loki, is not-quite-so-little-anymore. He’s 11 weeks old now and has gained almost four pounds since his Fetcha Day four weeks ago. His front paws seem huge, his eyes are darker, and his markings are becoming more pronounced, He has met our neighbor dogs to the south, a golden retriever named Sawyer and his buddy Teddy, a yellow lab. He has zero fear of these dogs who are about 75 pounds heavier than he is. He stands at the fence on his hind legs with his nose to his new friends. He can’t wait to play with them. The neighbor dogs to our north, a Wheaton terrier named Finn and a chocolate-colored schnauzer named Chewie, Loki is not so sure about. They scared him the other day by sneaking up to the fence and barking at him while he was peeing. Loki stopped mid-stream and tore off towards our front door, not looking back but barking complaints the entire way.
Today was Loki’s first opportunity for play time with other dogs. We’d been waiting to take him until we were certain his vaccinations were on track. At his first visit to his new vet on Thursday, he got the necessary shots so we enrolled him in an hour long Playful Pup socialization class in Denver. When we arrived, there was already one dog there, a much larger mixed breed named Vaquita. Not long after we entered, a cattle dog mix named Pablo arrived. There were just three dogs in class today, and six nervous parents hoping their fur babies would play nice. The other dogs dwarfed Loki, but it was obvious from the start that Loki was the least fearful.
The dog trainer allowed the two larger, more fearful dogs to meet and figure out their dynamics first, while Loki watched from a safe distance behind a wire gate. Pablo and Vaquita were tense around each other. Their hackles were slightly raised and there was some doggy trash talking and flashing of pearly whites. Steve and I stood there wondering what the hell we had gotten our little guy into. After a while, Pablo and Vaquita began taking breaks from their interactions. The trainer had assessed that Pablo would be a better first meet-up for Loki, so Pablo was allowed into the gated area with Loki. Loki was eager to see what this bigger dog was all about, and Pablo was eager to prove he was the bigger dog. The early doggy tussles had Pablo in the lead, but as the minutes wore on we began to see Loki figuring out how to use his diminutive size to his advantage in play. Pablo and Loki played amicably but vigorously for about 10 minutes until both of them were dog tired. When Vaquita was reintroduced into the mixture, Pablo became protective of Loki. He clearly liked his new playmate and was not keen to share. Loki, for his part, seemed like he could use a nap. Vaquita got a bit aggressive with our tired pup, and Loki did something we hadn’t seen him do before. He scrunched up his puppy nose and bared those piranha teeth to let Vaquita know he was D-O-N-E. The trainer told us Loki had done a great job at his first play date and had earned some rest. So, we said our goodbyes and took our baby home.
I have to hand it to the trainer. She had her hands full today with two larger, more fearful puppies and one tiny, scrappy guy who had been itching for a play opportunity. She didn’t just carefully monitor the puppy language; she also watched the anxious parents who were simultaneously fearful for their babies and fearful their babies might hurt someone else’s baby. She took care of all nine of us without blinking an eye. And I left Loki’s first puppy class feeling both proud of Loki for being a typical, assertive Corgi despite his size and proud of Steve and I for not freaking out when the bigger dogs got a little riled up around our 9 pound boy.
All in all, the day was a great success. We’d started Loki on the path to being a good dog citizen and we’d learned to relax a little about dog interactions ourselves. It’s hard for people who are conflict averse to watch discord, even puppy discord, without feeling uncomfortable. I think we learned as much today as Loki did. And we’re ready to sign him up for another socialization session, which means all three of us grew today and will grow more soon.